Thursday, December 18, 2014

Week Forty-Nine- Wrath

 “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?”  Proverbs 27:4
Wrath.  It means heated rage or hot displeasure.  Wrath may seem like an unlikely subject while the Christmas season is upon us, but one character in the Christmas story exemplifies this verse – Herod.  His wrath was cruel and his angry response was totally outrageous.  Even God removed his Son from the reach of this king’s envy by instructing Joseph to take his young family into Egypt.
You know the story.  Herod appealed to the Wise Men with the pretense of wanting to worship the new King, but his real intent was to dethrone him before he could come to power.  His wrath, anger and envy drove him to murder all baby boys in his realm under the age of two.  Outrageous.
But this is the manner of wrath.  It causes us to lose our balance and sense of reality and justice.  All we can think of is our own vengeance.  We strike out in self-protection or for the purpose of securing our position.  People do it at work, in the home, and, sadly, in the church.
The Bible is full of examples of individuals who allowed their wrath to drive their decisions, and with disastrous consequences for themselves and others around them.  The Bible is also full of verses warning us about wrath and how best to deal with it.
The trouble with wrath is that it is so closely bound with pride.  We don’t even want to admit we are angry.  So we hold it inside.  Meanwhile, it is burning its way through in our words and actions.  Eventually it will be exposed for the cruel thing it really is.
Are you holding wrath, anger and envy in your heart against someone?  What better time than today to let it go?  Forgive – that is the only lasting remedy for anger – before it explodes.

 “For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.”  Job 5:2
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  James 1:20
Wrath has a way of provoking us to frustration.  It is a vexation of the soul, an agitation and a violent emotion.  It overtakes and makes its mark on our life and on the lives of those around us.
Job says it will kill the foolish man and James tells us that it does not produce good things.  This tells me that there can really be no justification for holding on to wrath. 
Yet how many families are marred by wrath?  You hear stories of Christmases that are completely destroyed by the anger and envy brought into the home by those who refuse to let it go.  Surely there is nothing sadder than a family who cannot enjoy time together without fear of someone’s outburst.
Oh, yes, someone did something to someone or said something several years ago, and no one is going to allow him or her to forget it.  Why do we think this is wise?  Why do we think that somehow holding on to a hurt will make better?  Do we not understand that the longer you hold a hot coal in your hand the deeper it burns?  The scar will not go away easily, but picking at it only makes it worse.  Again, forgiveness is the only cure for anger.  You must let it go.  You must take the hot coal out of your hand and apply a healing balm to the wound.
Grace and forgiveness is the best balm.  Grace that says, “I will overlook the comment.”  Forgiveness that say, “I will let the hurt go.”
This just might be the best Christmas gift you could ever give to yourself, and to your family.

 “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  James 1:19
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication our of your mouth.”  Colossians 3:8
One of the most common ways for wrath to expose itself is in our speech.  It doesn’t take long to talk with someone and discover where his or her pressure points are.  They may be angry with their boss or frustrated with a co-worker.  It will come one in their conversation.  Some people live their lives angry.  Nearly every word they speak is coloured by resentment.  It really behooves us to examine our core to see if we are living from anger.  Sometimes we might even need to ask a trusted friend to know if our tones of voice or mannerisms are exhibiting this characteristic.
Nevertheless, God is clear on how we should direct our speech and how speech is related to wrath.  A soft answer turns away wrath.  Simple.  If someone is angry, don’t respond in anger as well.  This only heightens the emotion.
Then, we are told to listen better, speak less, and not be so quick to respond emotionally in anger.  Sound advice!  You will learn so much more by listening than by speaking your own mind and allowing emotion to drive the conversation.  Matter of fact, I have found that simply listening without responding means I can take it away, pray over it, and usually not have to respond at all.  I can take it to the Lord and leave it with him.  Emotions don’t have to drive everything I hear.  And people don’t always have to know what I think.
Finally, Colossians gives us a list of things we need to simply put out of our life and speech.  The definition of wrath here means: passion, angry, heat, anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again.  Oh, my, isn’t that how wrath is?  It has an ebb and tide and is driven by emotion.  Reminds me of the verse in James – the double-minded man is unstable.  Allowing anger to be the deciding factor in our life and speech means that we will always be boiling up and down.
Do you want to live like that?  Or, rather, do you live like that?

 “A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.”  Proverbs 21:14
Christmas is a time of gift giving.  Here God is telling us that gifts certainly have their place.  And in the matter of wrath, they can perform a definite function.  Some commentators read this verse in relation to bribes, but I believe there is a principle here that does not hold such a dubious relation.
An angry person needs appeasement.  He needs help to pacify his anger.  It might be a soft answer or a listening ear, or, it might mean something more tangible like an act of kindness or a gift.
One beautiful Bible example is the wisdom exhibited by Abigail toward David.  As David’s anger had been violently aroused by Nabal’s disrespectful rejection, she arose in secret with a gift and a soft answer full of wisdom to turn away David’s anger and planned action.  This was not a bribe, but a gift showing her sincerity.  David praises her for her wisdom.  Her timely gift, given respectfully, saved not only Abigail and her household, but also David’s reputation.
And there is the idea of gifts given to pacify anger.  They must be done circumspectly and secretly.  Gifts given openly make a show of the giver and cause shame to the receiver.  They do not pacify, but intensify.  The gift given must be of sincerity, not in condemnation, and should never be announced publically.  Done correctly, with the right heart, gifts create the opportunity for reconciliation and remove wrath.
Is there someone to whom a show of your sincerity would release wrath from their life?  It isn’t about who is right or wrong, it is about who wants to make the first step toward reconciliation.  Will you be the one to offer the gift?

 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  John 3:36
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I Thessalonians 5:9
Here is the real story of Christmas and the answer to eternal wrath.  We deserve the wrath of God.  This wrath is justified and eternal.  It is not cruel or envious.  It is not emotionally driven.  It is factual.  Man sinned.  He deserves punishment.
But the balm of grace and forgiveness came to us in the form of man to pay the penalty for our sin and release us from the wrath of God.
This is God’s plan – God’s appointment, that we should escape His wrath and obtain eternal salvation. 
Here is also a picture for us.  Though our enemy, friend, or family member may deserve our wrath by their actions against us, we have the option of appointing them the opportunity by grace and forgiveness to be released from the penalty.  We can choose to forgive. 
Chuck Lynch wrote a book called, I Should Forgive, but…  He goes through the many reasons we tell ourselves as we try to justify holding onto our hurts and grudges.  It is a good read and I heartily recommend it if you are struggling with issues of anger and unforgiveness.
The gift of Christmas is proof that the choice of God is forgiveness.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”  Hebrews 8:12

What is your choice?

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